SNG ABCs: Calling Short-Stack All-Ins

Jonathan Little
SNG Icon Jon Little: Master of the push or fold.

Everyone knows that the key to winning sit-and-gos is to play aggressively. However, that isn't always going to be possible.

When you're in the big blind and have a short-stack all-in in front of you, aggression isn't going to help you. You either call or you fold.

So how do you decide which route to take?

Well, first of all, you can go by hand quality. If you have a great hand, it makes your decision fairly easy.

If, however, your holdings are less than stellar, you have to judge by more than hand quality: you look at the odds.

What Exactly are the Required Odds?

Many players don't take odds into account at all when deciding whether to call a short-stack shove.

They think, "Oh, he's all-in - he must have a hand. My T-8 must be no good."

This is incorrect. Though your T-8 may indeed be a dog, you may be getting the required odds to call.

So what exactly are the "required odds?"

There's no way to determine the exact required odds, because you don't know for sure what your opponent's holding.

However, in my four-part sit-and-go article I advise, "If you are getting 2-1 or better, you'd better have a good reason for folding."

Meaning that unless this guy is the tightest player in the world, at those odds you should probably be calling.

Phil Hellmuth
If you're getting 2-1 or better and have a decent stack, you should be calling.

If it is late in the tournament and the player is short-stacked, he'll be shoving all-in with a very wide range of hands.

I'm not just talking about premium AA, A-K, JJ type hands.

Instead, they'll be pushing all sorts of hands, ones like 9-8, 44, J-Q and even the occasional super spazzy 5-3o.

No two unpaired cards are a huge favorite over two other live unpaired cards.

So if you are getting 2-1 or better and have a decent stack, you should almost always be looking up short-stack shoves.

Let's take a look at how some random hands stack up against other random hands:

A-K vs. 9-8 9-8 will go on to win 36% of the time
A-Q vs. J-Ts J-T will go on to win 41% of the time
44 vs. T-9 T-9 will go on to win 50.3% of the time
A-T vs. 4-7 4-7 will go on to win 35% of the time
A-T vs. T-8 T-8 will go on to win 27.5% of the time

As you can see by this small sampling, the only time you are really a dog is when you are dominated like in the T-8 versus A-T hand.

Other than that, you are almost always 35-40% to win. Thus it would be a huge mistake to fold getting 2-1 or better on a 40% shot.

Think of it this way: if you could bet on flipping a lopsided coin all day that would land heads 40% of the time and tails 60% of the time, and you would be paid out at 2-1 for every heads, you would be rich by the end of the day.

So why pass up that same bet in a poker game?

Let's take a look at an example:

$100/$200 blinds. You're in the big blind with $6,000.

The small blind has $500 after posting. It's a full table and there is a $25 ante.

It's folded around to the SB, who shoves all-in for a total of $600. You're in the BB with T 7.

Should you call?

Kevin Saul
All you need is some 7th-grade math.

Let's do a little light seventh-grade math.

The SB is in for $600; there is $250 in from the antes, and you already have $200 in.

That makes a total of $1,050. You have to call $400 more to win $1,050.

So should you call? Absolutely. This is almost an any-two-cards situation. Getting 3-1 makes folding almost completely out of the question.

Now of course in a perfect world, you would never have to call with a hand that's behind your opponent's range.

You could just raise everyone else's blinds and steal your way to victory.

But in reality, that won't work. You are going to run into this situation.

And if you make a habit out of folding when you're getting 2-1 odds or better against a shorty, you're making a big error.

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